Dr. Bukola Saraki was elected the Executive Governor of Kwara State in 2003. He replaced his father’s former political godson, Mohammed Lawal. The later had fallen out with Bukola’s father, and therefore, had to be shown the door. With the active support and some say connivance of the presidency, Dr. Saraki was installed as the Governor of Kwara State.
From 2000-2003, Bukola had held several jobs, including acting as a Special Assistant to President Obasanjo on budget. The President fondly calls Bukola, “Mr. Private Sector.” The name must derive from Bukola’s work at the Societe General Bank, Plc. By the time Bukola became Governor of Kwara State, he had attained the level of Vice Chairman of the bank. While it may be a stretch to say that the bank collapsed under his stewardship, some argue that his family’s influence on the bank at the turn of the new century marked the beginning of the end of the bank.
About 10 months after the younger Saraki was elected Governor of Kwara State, the House of Representatives summoned then Central Bank Governor Joseph Sanusi to explain how Societe General Bank overdrew its capital base by eleven billion naira. The then Central Bank of Nigeria Governor was issued an order on 3 March 2004 which gave him only seven days to give a satisfactory explanation regarding the bank’s activities. Curiously, no director of the bank was summoned by the House.
On 29 November 2001, Bukola Saraki bought a big mansion in London for four million, two hundred and fifty thousand pounds (£4,250,000.00). The house with title number, NGL805616, is located on 70 Bourne Street, London SW1W 8JW. The lease hold on the property was registered on 9 January 2002 with the land registry, Harrow Office. It was bought with a loan from Fortis Bank, SA-NV. The house now has a free hold.
The three story edifice has been described as a house worthy of a king. The house is not far from Buckingham Palace road. It is about a minute walk from Sloane Sq station. It would appear that Bukola has an obsession with gold as almost everything you can see, including door knobs, are gold plated.
Elendureports.com investigated this story in Britain, the Netherlands, and Nigeria. We contacted the Fortis Bank press office in the Netherlands. They promised to return our call. As at the time of going to press more than 24 hours later, they have yet to return our call. Efforts to speak with the International Dept. of the NBM Merchant Bank in Lagos proved abortive as the staff kept transferring our reporter from one manager to the other. Finally we were able to speak with somebody and as soon we mentioned our interest in the Saraki transactions, the NBM Merchant Bank staffer we were speaking with hung up the phone.
Nobody would deny that Bukola Saraki came from a wealthy background. His father is reputed to have become a millionaire about the time Bukola was born. Olusola Saraki, a medical doctor, politician, and co-founder of Societe Generale Bank in Nigeria, was a Senator in the Second Republic. He was a member of the National Party of Nigeria (NPN). Bukola, according to accounts from people close to him, was in the private sector when he bought his London property. He was the Vice Chairman of Societe General Bank at this time. The implication is that while the bank was experiencing financial problems, he, as an executive of the bank was acquiring a multi-million pound home. The natural question that arises is: What did Dr. Bukola Saraki use as collateral for the four million, two hundred and fifty thousand pound (£4,250,000.00) loan? How much was Bukola Saraki paid as the Vice Chairman of a bank that was having financial problems at the time he worked there?
On March 20, 2003, the Nigerian Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA) and the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) were drafted to investigate some allegations of fraud at the SGBN perpetrated by the Saraki family. Dr. Olusola Saraki, his wife, Florence, son, Bukola, and 9 other shareholders were dragged to the NDLEA on allegations of money laundering. They were accused of using depositors’ funds to buy shares at the ailing Societe Generale Bank of Nigeria, contrary to the Banking and Other Financial Institutions Acts (BOFIA). There were reports that the presidency intervened and the case never saw the light of the day. The money, which amounted to billions of naira, was moved from several bank branches in bullion vans. There are no records of these transactions.
The Societe Generale Bank was sent out of the clearing house in June 2003. By early 2004, the bank and its top management were accused of involvement in a thirty-seven billion naira fraud. According to a report in businessdayonline, the bank was unable to account for seventeen billion naira alleged to have been overdrawn from its accounts with the Central Bank of Nigeria.
People outside the political cycles in Abuja have wondered why nobody from the Saraki clan has been brought to book following the malfeasance at the Societe Generale Bank. They point to the case of the former Managing Director of the Bank of the North, Shettima Mohammed Bulama. According to very knowledgeable sources, Bulama and Saraki ran their banks similarly. Bulama, according to published reports is said to have granted himself a loan of about four hundred and fifty million naira. Likewise, the Sarakis were alleged to have given themselves a loan of over four hundred million naira. While Bulama has been disgraced and faced legal problems, the Saraki’s are still waxing strong.
Societe Generale Bank was recently granted a thirteen billion naira bail-out by the Federal Government. Savannah Bank of Nigeria owned by former Governor of Anambra State, Jim Nwobodo, was grounded under mysterious and very controversial circumstances. The Federal Government has yet to bail-out the bank which some suggest went under because of interference from the government. Billions of naira belonging to depositors is trapped in Savannah Bank. What is painfully obvious is that the bank most likely would have received assistance to regain its footing had the owners and operators been friends of President Obasanjo.
Dr. Olusola Saraki, fondly called ‘Oloye’ by President Obasanjo has managed the unprecedented feat of installing his son as Governor of Kwara Sate while simultaneously securing a seat in the Senate for his daughter. The anti corruption axe has not swung his way because of his closeness to President Obasanjo, while Bulama is suffering because he was a member of the rival All Nigeria Peoples Party (ANPP).
We tried to interview Gov. Saraki for this story. His Special Adviser on Policy and Strategy, Bolaji Abdullahi, told Elendureports.com that the Governor would not grant a telephone interview. Our reporter and the Special Adviser to the Governor had several discussions over a two-day period. The Governor, through his Special Adviser, confirmed to Elendureports.com that he bought the house on 70 Bourne Street, London in 2002 when he was the Executive Vice Chairman of the Societe Generale Bank. Documents in our possession show the house was bought in 2001. He also said that the house was listed in his asset declaration form at the Code of Conduct Bureau. While nobody has accused the young Governor of Kwara State of corruption and fraudulent practices, it still boggles the mind that he would spend so much money to acquire this piece of real estate in a foreign land when his bank was near collapse, with depositors funds trapped. And if as the records show he was still an adviser to Pres. Obasanjo when this multi-million pound house was bought, one would ask: How come the President does not see the corruption at his own feet?